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Retired NFL Ref Back in the Game

Skokie resident Jerry Markbreit shows his autographed football from Super Bowl XXIX—the last of four Super Bowls he refereed—to Alden Estates of Skokie Administrator Lindsay McKenzie. The legendary NFL referee recently spent 16 days at the rehabilitation center following hip replacement surgery.

Skokie resident Jerry Markbreit shows his autographed football from Super Bowl XXIX—the last of four Super Bowls he refereed—to Alden Estates of Skokie Administrator Lindsay McKenzie. The legendary NFL referee recently spent 16 days at the rehabilitation center following hip replacement surgery.

Think officiating at the Super Bowl would be a bit more daunting than having a routine orthopedic procedure? Just ask legendary National Football League (NFL) referee Jerry Markbreit about his recent hip replacement surgery.

“I procrastinated for four years until I could hardly get around,” the 77-year-old Skokie resident confesses in an interview at Alden Estates of Skokie Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Skokie where he spent 16 days in rehab. “Today, I’m back in the game and have absolutely no hip pain.”

For Markbreit, who refereed football for 43 years, including 11 seasons with the Big Ten Conference and 23 seasons with the NFL, being ‘back in the game’ is more than a figure of speech. Although he retired from the NFL as an active official in 1999, he currently acts as a trainer and mentor to the NFL’s 17 referees—head officials who wear the white hats and announce the calls.

Often referred to as ‘one of the best’ by sports commentators, Markbreit is the only referee to date who has officiated four Super Bowl games (XVII, XXI, XXVI and XXIX). When he was admitted to Alden Estates of Skokie for short-term orthopedic rehab, he didn’t inform the staff about his NFL experience. “We had no idea that Jerry was famous until another short-term rehab patient recognized him,” says Administrator Lindsay McKenzie.

Despite his love of football, Markbreit admits that the extremely physical nature of the game can take a toll. “That’s why I have no hips or knees,” he sighs. “I ran around for 43 years and just wore them out.”

But since his hip replacement, Markbreit says he is much less apprehensive about the knee surgery that he’ll need in the not-too-distant future. “After spending two weeks in rehab, I feel almost nostalgic about this place,” he says. And since keeping score is second nature to Markbreit, he also volunteers: “I give Alden 10 out of a possible 10.”

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